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Source: sunsurfer

 

A work of art is a world in itself reflecting senses and emotions of the artist’s world.
Hans Hofmann

The library is cool and smells like carpet cleaner, although all I can see is marble. I sign the Visitor’s Log: Claire Abshire, 11:15 10-26-91 Special Collections. I have never been in the Newberry Library before, and now that I’ve gotten past the dark, foreboding entrance I am excited. I have a sort of Christmas-morning sense of the library as a big box full of beautiful books. The elevator is dimly lit, almost silent. I stop on the third floor and fill out an application for a Reader’s Card, then I go upstairs to Special Collections. My boot heels rap the wooden floor. The room is quiet and crowded, full of solid, heavy tables piled with books and surrounded by readers. Chicago autumn morning light shines through the tall windows….

 

It’s been said that writing is a form of telepathy. A good writer takes the images in his mind and, through the gift of words, teleports that image into the minds of his readers. The better he is with words, the clearer the image will be. However, a great writer will teleport the experience in his mind into the minds of his readers. A great writer engages all five senses.

I have never been to the Newberry Library before, but after reading the opening of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife I certainly feel like I have. In fact, I feel like I forgot to return a book to them. Hmm, perhaps in another life. In her opening, Niffenegger engaged all of my senses. I feel like I had the opportunity to slip into someone else’s shoes—no into their body—and take a walk through a library located in a city I have never visited.

Achieving this effect is certainly easier said than done. Some days, I get so caught up in the word count, or in writing “clever” dialog, metaphors and similes that I forget to engage all of my senses. Sometimes I have to stop and close my eyes and just experience my story instead of visualizing it. And then I go back over what I have written and I start to “beef it up.” Like a painter, I start to add layer upon layer, until I am almost convinced that I’m standing before a hulking creature, engaged in a relentless battle. When my character is smacked so hard that he ends up face down in the snow, I too feel stunned. The world is spinning, my jaw hurts from where the creature struck me, and I can taste blood in my mouth. I know I must get back up, but somehow I can’t. Behind me, I can hear his talons scraping the snowy ground—wait a minute—that’s my character, not me.

Phew. That was close. I left my sword and bow in the back of the closet anyway.

So, once again: writing is telepathy. We read to engage in new worlds, to have experiences we could only dream of. We read because we only have this one lifetime, but there is a magic between the cover of a book that can help us defy that.

Don’t be afraid to take us into the depths of your mind, even if it is a scary place from whence we may never return—we may not want to return. That way, even years after we have read your story, we will still remember what the Newberry Library smelled like on that autumn morning in Chicago.

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Hidden Away

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.

William Wordsworth

Once again I find myself writing a post inspired by a song. I had no intention to do so, had no intention of writing a post at all today; but today, music breathed an intention into me.

On Josh Groban’s latest album, Illuminations, his song “Hidden Away” has to be my favorite. But today was the first time that it spoke to me directly as an aspiring author. Here’s an excerpt:

 

You’re a wonder, how bright you shine
A flickering candle in a short lifetime
A secret dreamer that never shows
If no one sees you then nobody knows

And all these words you were meant to say
Held in silence day after day
Words of kindness that our poor hearts crave
Please don’t keep them
Hidden Away

Oh, what it is to have a story or poem in the back of your mind, so many words you were meant to say, that you were born to share with the world. What it is to be pregnant with ideas you fear you will never give birth to. You fear that you do not have what it takes to express those things properly, or you fear no one will be interested in hearing them.

For a long time we have aspired. But unless our words and ideas are revealed on the page, they remain, in essence, hidden away in our hearts.

So, if you’re feeling down and defeated, wondering if perhaps you weren’t meant to write, remember that it’s not enough to be a secret dreamer, and it’s not enough to aspire. You must do. Only then will you answer the call of your heart, and the call of the world that truly craves to hear what it is you have to say.

You never find the path to your true self, but rather,

you find your true self along the path.

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This afternoon, on the way down to the cafeteria at work, I pondered what I was going to write about on my blog today. As usual, it was meager pickin’s at the caf, so I plucked two bottles of water from the fridge and went straight to the register. I am so predictable that the staff already added up everything for me because I get two bottles of water every day. As I fork over the cash, Phil Collins is singing “True Colors” in the background on the radio. Along my trek back to the office, I kept rolling the words “true colors” around in my head like dough, trying to shape it until I could put it into my creative oven and bake a post out of it. Of course, this meant Phil Collins would have a True Colors concert in my head for the rest of the day.

Later this evening, as my sister, Sydney and I were cooking dinner, she gets into one of her philosophical moods—scratch that, she is always philosophical.

“Do you think that our characters are a part of who we are?” she asked. “Are they the people we truly are, or are they the people we wish we could be?”

Oh, great, time for introspection. And all before dinner.

She asked me about Deanna Taylor, one of the main characters in my story, Timeless. Deanna is somewhat of an icon around the house.  She is known for her sassy but classy, take-no-prisoners attitude.

“How much of Deanna is really you?” Syd asked.

Knowing me as well as she does, Sydney has seen the “Deanna” side of my personality come out from time to time, especially if someone is messing with me or my loved ones. But she had posed a very good question. How much of Deanna is actually a part of me? If so, is that who I really am or just who I wish I was?

I don’t know about anyone else, but being a writer gives me a chance to “act” as different characters in different situations. It gives me the chance to be bold or shy, good or bad, funny or serious. However, I do notice that a little bit of me is in every character I write, especially my main characters. But really, instead of writing myself into the story, I find myself as I write my story. I discover my strengths and weaknesses through my characters, and I am the better for it.

Talk about psychoanalysis.

But to answer Sydney’s question, Deanna is probably more like me than any of the other characters I have created. When a situation turns bad, and someone is trying to walk all over me, I won’t take it lying down. But at the same time, I’m a lot less tough than I act sometimes.

So, how about you? Do your true colors show through your characters? Are they who you really are? Or are they who you wish you could be?

Most people do something relaxing or fun for their birthday. I am not most people. On January 17th, I set out to write 50,000 words in one month—NaNoWrimo in January. So far, I’m not impressed with myself—I’ve only written 18,000 words. Ugh.

But there is a silver lining. This past month, I have learned a lot about myself as a writer, and I’ve taken some brave steps toward taking myself seriously as one.  The key was literary abandon.

Something awesome happened when I decided to sit down and write 50,000 words. I chose a story that I had done very little planning on and absolutely no outline. (There are few stories like that in my files). I had an idea of what direction I wanted to go in with the story but I had no clue where my pen (or keyboard) would truly lead me. This was the best thing I could have done for myself.

I felt free. And it was as terrifying.

How could I possibly write something when I didn’t know where it was going? It forced me to stop thinking so much, and I let my heart take me somewhere wonderful and new. I didn’t know what would happen to my characters, and it was exciting!

This past month, my sister said something that really helped me. Don’t worry about getting your character into trouble; it’s their problem—not yours—to figure out how to get out of it. That’s when they reveal what they’re made of. All the attributes you give them show when the characters works the problem out for themselves. And your storytelling is the better for it.

In the beginning of my story, my character falls into a lake of ice. I started to wonder how she would get out of the situation since she was alone. I started to worry about hypothermia. I mean, who needs a dead main character at the beginning of the story, right? But since I was writing on the fly, I just let it flow. Quite like real life, the answer came during the next chapter, and I had a fun time writing it.

Gee, fancy that—writing can be fun!

But that was the problem. For so many years, I would think up story ideas that would excite me, stories I looked forward to writing because I knew it would be fun to do so. But then I would get bogged down in outlines, and character sketches…and more outlines…and plot sketches…and more outlines…you get the picture. All of this because I was too busy trying to get it right.

In the introduction of John Dufresne’s book, Is Life Like This?: A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months, he states:

“Uncertainty allows for, even encourages, revelation and surprise, while it prevents the manipulation of character or plot to suit your preconceived, and usually ill-conceived, notion of what the novel must be. In writing the first draft, you begin to work through all the uncertainty and advance toward meaning.”

I don’t know about you, but I want there to be meaning in my writing. I am going to continue on in uncertainty and see where the road takes me.

Teaser Tuesday

I just found out about Teaser Tuesdays, a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. I’ve decided to take part in this, as it will encourage me to read a little bit more. My sister is letting me borrow her Kindle so I have no excuse about how I can’t get to the bookstore. Plus, reading inspires me to write.

I know it’s not Tuesday, but I didn’t have time to post yesterday. Oh, well.

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:

“Our vampire community prides itself on being mainstream. A vampire gang would be bad publicity, so they took care of it.”

~ Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton


PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own Teaser Tuesdays post, or share your ‘teasers’ in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks!

The successful networkers I know, the ones receiving tons of referrals and feeling truly happy about themselves, continually put the other person’s needs ahead of their own.

Bob Burg

Author, Speaker

 

Rachael Harrie, a children’s book writer on a mission to get published, has come up with a glorious idea to help people in the literary industry connect. Whether it be aspiring authors, bloggers (whether established or beginning), “industry peeps”, or published authors, the Writers’ Platform Building Crusade builds a network of support between people with similar goals and interests.

“We have the passion and the drive to make it,” Rachael Harrie says on her blog called Rach Writes, “…but…we could all do with a bit of support….. So I started thinking. What if we link all these people together? What if we create a way to meet people in a similar position, people who genuinely want to help build our online platform while at the same time building theirs? People who want to pay it forward in the spirit of writerly writerness and blogging beautificity (and see it come back to them in turn).”

So, what if there were a way? Well, there is now. Simply follow this link to find out more details on how to join this wonderful Crusade.

Get connected with others. Inspire and be inspired.

 

NaNoWriMo in January

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

http://www.nanowrimo.org/whatisnano

 

 

“November 1st-30th – Thirty days and nights of literary abandon!” says the National Novel Writing Month website, also known as NaNoWriMo. Literary abandon! What a nice sound that has!

But it’s not November, you say? Big deal! Why put off tomorrow what you can do today! Although, I’m a big fan of Nanowrimo in November, I was out of commission during that month, so now it’s time for my make up test.

However, the greatest thing about NaNoWriMo is knowing that thousands of people are out there writing on the fly like you are. Well, I’m settling for the company of two.

And two wonderful writers they are. But I’m biased—the writers are my two sisters. We all consistently hound one another for the newest chapters of each other’s projects. I am the worst because I switch projects like I do socks. I just have too many ideas, and when I get stuck with one project, it’s onto another one. At least these two wonderful ladies are a little more disciplined. When they get stuck they don’t move onto to the next story.

Ah, now that’s loyalty.

But now that each one of us is stuck, we have decided to make it NaNoWriMo in January. We have agreed to write our hearts out for the next thirty days. This is a sort of birthday present to myself, so all the better.

Feeling stuck? Feel free to make it NaNoWriMo in your house. But don’t forget to go to www.nanowrimo.org before November and sign up for National Novel Writing Month. This will push you to write two novels for 2011. Daunting, but I know it can be done. I want to say that I’ll do it, but the whole point of NaNoWriMo is not to put pressure on yourself to produce a perfect book in 30 days. The point is just to write.

Happy NaNoWrimo in January!